My life decisions over the last five years are taking me places I never expected to go. Introducing mindfulness meditation to the students at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is definitely one of those.
It was part of a lecture series run by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA). Six times a year, students enjoy a free pizza lunch and are introduced to topics like veterinary economics, life in large animal practice or others that are not part of the curriculum. When the organizer asked me to participate, I took the opportunity. Why not start with developing tools for skillful living while they are developing their skills for veterinary practice?
About 80 students stayed (they were kindly threatened by the student leaders to not just take their pizza lunch and run!), ranging from 1st to 4th years and even one resident DVM. I had about 40 minutes to catch and hold their attention. I told them about Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) work. I showed them how it was a mind-body practice, by leading them through several simple, seated, breath-based meditations. I gave them tips on how to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their daily lives. They didn’t run away with their pizza or leave screaming from the room. In fact, there were moments when we could all feel our collective energy had settled, just by participating in a sitting practice together. It was surreal to be back at my alma mater and, at the same time a privilege, sharing what I felt was an experience that had and continues to make me a better veterinarian and person.
I was advised by one of the students that there is a weekly mindfulness meditation group on main campus, led by one of the University Counsellors. I was happy to hear this but joked that I knew veterinary students seldom crossed the road to get to the “other side”. I encouraged them to start their own group and to find me on my Downward Dog DVM Facebook page if they wanted to continue the conversation.
Planting the seeds. Hoping for the future.